EPA approves Navajo Nation to regulate drinking water systems

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times
Navajo Nation

FARMINGTON — A program under the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency will now oversee 12 public drinking water systems on the reservation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the Navajo Nation EPA's Public Water Systems Supervision Program to regulate a dozen systems that serve approximately 12,500 people in the western and eastern agencies.

Systems in the eastern agency are located at Standing Rock Community School near Crownpoint and at Thoreau High School in Thoreau, according to the EPA Region 9.

The announcement was made Aug. 15 in an EPA press release that stated the Navajo Nation EPA met the "stringent conditions" to handle enforcement authority under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

Drinking water on the Navajo Nation comes from two major sources – surface water and groundwater, according to the tribal program's website.

The program also operates in compliance with the tribe's Safe Drinking Water Act, which was adopted in 1995 for protecting and establishing appropriate drinking water standards.

"The Navajo Nation's commitment to expanding drinking water system oversight and enforcement responsibility is commendable. We support their efforts to ensure that Navajo Nation residents receive safe drinking water now and into the future," EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker said in the agency's release.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in the release the tribe's priority is to provide clean and safe drinking water for people living on tribal land.

"This expanded authority will improve the health and well-being for future generations," Begaye said.

The release states the Navajo Nation remains the only tribe to have regulatory authority for 168 drinking water systems and funding provided by the EPA pays for employees and program activities.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.